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Bringing online innovation into the shop

| By iGB Editorial Team
Realistic Games CEO Andy Harris on why it is time for suppliers to finally deliver on the multi-channel promise.

Depending on who you talk to in our industry, multi-channel is either a revolution, a saviour or a whole lot of hot air. Since the term first started appearing on the gaming conference circuit a few years ago, I would be inclined to describe it as a missed opportunity, at least for many in the industry.

However, nobody should doubt the sheer potential multi-channel holds for providers and operators alike. We live in the age of the customer, and providing a seamless experience wherever that customer wants to play should be the top priority for all of us. But so far we’ve seen very few make good on this promise. Most suppliers now produce content which can be played across desktop and mobile. Yet to describe this as truly multi-channel is a push without a strong land-based machine component.

A smoother journey

The explosive growth of the online sector makes it easy to forget the value of retail in the gaming industry, both in Britain and worldwide. Look at many of the biggest operators, and retail remains absolutely central to their long-term strategy. Paddy Power Betfair CEO Breon Corcoran even cited the acquisition of a retail estate and the omni-channel opportunities it brings as a major upside for Betfair ahead of its merger with Paddy Power.

While many of these operators and the providers supplying them have done a good job linking their online sportsbook with their retail offer, there has been less progress on the gaming side. Very few of the most exciting online slots developers offer their content across desktop, mobile and retail, while those who do tend to make sacrifices to bring their titles onto machines in the retail environment.

When it comes to creating a logical user journey for customers, and ensuring a great experience regardless of the channel they choose, creating a gaming proposition which is truly multi-channel is a major challenge, particularly from a technological, regulatory and game play perspective.

Learning lessons

We feel we’ve taken a big step in this direction with the launch of our game across desktop, mobile, and machines across in a leading UK bookmaker’s retail estate. Creating a game which actually works across all channels was not easy, and we had to tackle a number of challenges during the development process.

The nuisances of game play transition between the channels can have a big impact of a game’s success. With the B2 version in shops letting customers play for stakes of £20, we built the online version to have greater staking flexibility aimed at those who prefer to play for lower stakes. Games should not narrow access; it is far better to produce a slot which is inclusive.

Design for the channel

It is equally important that the game is tailored to the channel on which it will be played. There are innumerable variables when it comes to slot design, so assuming the same thing will work across all channels is wishful thinking.

Following some broad guidelines can make the development process a lot smoother. This means ensuring a game can adapt to the differing session times of online, mobile and in-shop machine, while also producing a graphically engaging slot which can thrive on differently sized screens.

The return to player percentage (RTP) is also important to consider; adapting it for both different and the same channels has impacts on game play that need to be carefully considered. This certainly makes for a demanding development process, but the opportunities of offering a truly multichannel experience are clear.

The most innovative online slots developers are yet to make a big impact in retail, and the sector is ripe for the type of games which disrupt. For many years, it was only the major land-based providers which had the tech capabilities to offer their games across all channels. But with the right investment and expertise, it is now possible to bring best-of-breed online gaming content into the shop without sacrificing the user experience.

We’ve reached a stage where talking about multi-channel’s potential is no longer enough. Any company which wants to succeed in the modern gaming environment – where players no longer distinguish between channels but rather focus on the experience – will need to find new ways to join the dots.

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